When you hear a joke, whether by surprise or skating along a fearful or embarrassing subject, your body automatically prepares to freeze, run, or fight. It marshals energy sending it to the appropriate centers to prepare for immediate action. In a real fear situation, the physical after effect is often trembling as the muscles vibrate to release unused tension. Laughter, like vented anger is another exhaust valve for this unused energy. Good comedians can craft stories that take us right to the edge of fear without pushing us over. Great comedians can see the energy build in the moment and intuitively know when to allow its release in laughter.
As a playwright, I’ve had the privilege of working with great comedic actors. Two in particular come to mind. Energy is energy and can be directed where we will. Certain moments in a story will be sad or frightening and the playwright mostly crafts the energy line where he wants it, releasing the tension at a point and in a way that he feels supports and furthers the story. An intuitive actor will recognize the accumulated energy point and know that it can be released by the audience as laughter with only an ad lib word. So, these two brilliant comedic actors would recognize those moments and champ against not being able the receive the wash of laughter and attention that one ad lib word would release. They would usually make it till the end of the run, sometimes the last night, and then, they’d pull on that string and the audience would release that tension in gales of laughter. As the playwright, it didn’t light me up, but I accepted it as a cost of having these brilliant actors bring my words to life. And I am still incredibly grateful to them both. Energy can be used for whatever we choose.
|Image by Firentis from Pixabay|
So, what can this possibly have to do with the soul-destroying racism that we are face to face with? I’ll offer one disclaimer here. I’m not a psychologist nor do I have an advanced degree or initials after my name. I am a thoughtful human, just like you. Our existence here is a result of our grouping together to craft more creative and life supportive responses to life’s threats. Racism is a threat to all of us, to our future existence. Some is not a life supportive word.
Living organisms only change the status quo in response to threat. We now have an opportunity. Now. The proponents of the status quo know this and will use every method to encourage our exhausting the energy of the moment before it can congeal into change. They will goad us to action, usually destructive which accomplished their intention venting the threat to their status quo. No matter how self-serving and threatening to our continued existence the status quo might be. We can tremble or vent in rage or use this energy moment to craft concrete steps to initiate change. Will these steps be the magic answer? Probably not, but they will be a beginning which is more powerful than all the anger and platitudes. Anger is easier and frankly, in the moment feels so good to exhaust that tension and energy. Sitting still, holding on to the energy of anger is hard. Putting pencil to paper and coming up with concrete steps toward change is even harder especially when you know that at least some of what you say will be gainsaid and ridiculed. That’s where courage gets its opportunity to come on stage. It’s been waiting in the wings for its que. It’s always been standing in the wings for all of us.
We/I’ve made a mistake. We/I can do better.
Delineate the mistake as clearly as possible, both as existing habit/rule and traditional response. Tear the mistake into as many pieces as you can. Put each piece of the mistake under a microscope. Throw tradition into the trash. Evolution considers all possibilities, and even some that may not look possible.
Craft the change. Revise.
But… Here come the buts. But we’re only one institution/person. How can this possibly have an effect on the whole?
Energy is thought. Thought is energy. I call it the law of small things. I won’t waste time trying to support the science of a thought gaining power until it goes viral. Nothing is lost. Energy is not destroyed. Time spent thinking creatively and positively is never wasted. Even this rambling discourse which no one may ever see is not wasted. I care. And this is my best effort at supporting the social evolution I see as absolutely necessary for humanity’s survival. More than that, I adore my children and grandchildren, and most of my moments these days are spent worrying about the quality of life they will have, or if they’ll have life at all. We are so beautiful. All of us, the children and the adults no matter each one’s chronological age. Please don’t waste energy on punishment, rather direct it toward your best creative potential in compassion and we’ll come out of this as amazing as we’re meant to be.
In 1969 I failed. I protested, I railed against the status quo. We failed. We allowed our collective energy to dissipate. We pulled the string on the moment and released its energy. The opportunity passed by as opportunities will. Fortunately, they come around again. As long as we survive, we will get another chance. Until we don’t. This is your time. Do the homework. Be specific. Gather resources and consensus. Quietly, peacefully, gather the energy of the moment and direct it like a laser against our childish abuse of each other. PERSIST. Our grandchildren are counting on you. Yes, mine and yours to be.
Here is a little from my first novel in The Sun God’s Heir series. I hope you enjoy it.
For three thousand years a hatred burns. In seventeenth century France two souls incarnate, one born the child of a prosperous merchant, the other, determined to continue an incarnation begun long ago.
In ancient Egypt, there were two brothers, disciples of the pharaoh, Akhenaten. When the pharaoh died, the physician took the knowledge given and went to Greece to begin the mystery school. The general made a deal with the priests and became pharaoh. One remembers, one does not.
The year is 1671. René Gilbert’s destiny glints from the blade of a slashing rapier. The only way he can protect those he loves is to regain the power and knowledge of an ancient lifetime. From Bordeaux to Spain to Morocco, René is tested and with each turn of fate he gathers enemies and allies, slowly reclaiming the knowledge and power earned centuries ago. For three thousand years a secret sect has waited in Morocco.
After ages in darkness, Horemheb screams, “I am.” Using every dark art, he manages to maintain the life of the body he has bartered for. Only one life force in the world is powerful enough to allow him to remain within embodiment, perhaps forever. Determined to continue a reign of terror that once made the Nile run red, he grows stronger with each life taken.
Three men bled out into the dirt.
René stared at the hand that held the bloody rapier. His hand. Tremors shuddered through his body and down his arm. Droplets of blood sprayed the air and joined the carmine puddles that seeped into the sun-baked earth. He closed his eyes and commanded the muscles that grasped the rapier to release their tension and allow the sword to drop.
Years of daily practice and pain refused his mind’s order much as they had refused to spare the lives of three men. The heady exultation that filled him during the seconds of the fight drained away and left him empty, a vessel devoid of meaning. He staggered toward an old oak and leaned against its rough bark. Bent over, with one hand braced on the tree, he retched. And again. Still, the sword remained in his hand.
A cloud shuttered the sun. Distant thunder brushed his awareness and then faded. Rain. The mundane thought coasted through his mind. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and glanced down hoping to see a different tableau. No, death remained death, the only movement, that of flies attracted to a new ocean of sustenance.
The summer heat lifted the acrid blood-rust smell and forced him to turn his head away. Before him stretched a different world from the one in which he had awakened. No compass points. No maps. No tomorrow.
Award winning, international playwright Elliott B. Baker grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. With four musicals and one play published and done throughout the United States, New Zealand, Portugal, England, and Canada, Elliott is pleased to offer his first novel, Return, book one of The Sun God’s Heir trilogy.
A member of the Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild, Elliott lives in New Hampshire with his beautiful wife Sally Ann.